Queen of Sorcery: Actual Plot?

Last time, Hettar finally arrived, Belgarath gave the name of the Apostate, Zedar (Belzedar), Belgarath explained a little more about how his brand of magic worked, with the supreme caveat that trying to use it to unmake someone or something rebounds immediately on the caster, so no insta-killing with magic by telling someone or something not to exist. (Still plenty of other creative ways to off someone with magic, though.) Good thing Garion learned that before he tried to exact revenge on someone with magic powers that he clearly has but hasn’t had any training on.

Queen of Sorcery, Chapter 3: Content Notes:

Chapter 3 starts with Silk unveiling a different disguise of himself, a merchant named Radek of Boktor, who will conveniently provide cover for the entire traveling party. In theory.

“Not a bad disguise,” Mister Wolf agreed. “One more Drasnian merchant on the Great West Road won’t attract any attention—whatever his name.”
“Please,” Silk objected in an injured tone. “The name’s very important. You hang the whole disguise on the name.”
“I don’t see any difference,” Barak asserted bluntly.
“There’s all the difference in the world. Surely you can see that Ambar’s a vagabond with very little regard for ethics, while Radek’s a man of substance whose word is good in all the commercial centers of the West. Besides, Radek’s always accompanied by servants.”
“Servants?” One of Aunt Pol’s eyebrows shot up.
“Just for the sake of the disguise,” Silk assured her quickly. “You, of course, could never be a servant, Lady Polgara.”
“Thank you.”
“No one would ever believe it. You’ll be my sister, instead, traveling with me to see the splendors of Tol Holenth.”
Your sister?”
“You could be my mother instead, if you prefer,” Silk suggested blandly, “making a religious pilgrimage to Mar Terrin to atone for a colorful past.”
Aunt Pol gazed steadily at the small man for a moment while he grinned impudently at her. “Someday your sense of humor’s going to get you into a great deal of trouble, Prince Kheldar.”
“I’m always in trouble, Lady Polgara. I wouldn’t know how to act if I weren’t.”

Silk divides up the others as to whose servants are whose, and is hurt when nobody wants to know why. Before they get underway, Durnik realizes he’s forgotten to put the fire out and does so, to Wolf’s exasperation. (And apparent lack of concern for all the trees that are part of these ruins.) As Barak is mounting his horse, Hettar chuckles because the horse apparently said something funny, and they’re finally underway.

Silk is clearly like this to everyone that he meets and interacts with, both convinced of his own cleverness and ready to tweak anyone who might have some amount of authority or power they could use against him. Given Polgara’s temper that’s been displayed so far, I’m surprised they don’t turn Silk into a newt and keep him in a cage until he’s needed for some other thing. Because he has, once again, bought them goods to accompany them on their journey, although this time it’s cloth, instead of turnips, so they don’t need a wagon as well as the horses that they have. That said, it seems pretty clear to me that the only reason Silk didn’t make Polgara one of the servants is because she objected and he knows that she would make his life miserable until he let he be something other than on the level of being the Duchess of Erat.

Garion realizes, after Lelldorin suggests they learn about disguise from Silk for the revenge quest, that the “too flighty” appearance disguises that “Lelldorin only seemed to forget things.” And that prospect makes him nervous, because Lelldorin has already proven himself a very bad companion for things that might require delicacy, discretion, or anything resembling finesse. And because the two of them have very different value systems. Garion sees a serf on the side of the road and remembers the conversation he heard earlier between the two serfs, so he interrogates Lelldorin about the system of government they’ve set up here in Arendia.

“Is it really necessary to keep them so poor?” he demanded of Lelldorin, unable to hold it in any longer.
“Who?” Lelldorin asked, looking around.
“That serf.”
Lelldorin glanced back over his shoulder at the ragged man.
“You didn’t even see him,” Garion accused.
Lelldorin shrugged. “There are so many.”
“And they all dress in rags and live on the edge of starvation.”
“Mimbrate taxes,” Lelldring replied as if that explained everything.
You seem to have always had enough to eat.”
“I’m not a serf, Garion,” Lelldorin answered patiently. “The poorest people always suffer the most. It’s the way the world is.”
“It doesn’t have to be,” Garion retorted.
“You just don’t understand.”
“No. And I never will.”
“Naturally not,” Lelldorin said with infuriating complacency. “You’re not Arendish.”
Garion clenched his teeth to hold back the obvious reply.

I feel like this could be given more explanation or a longer internal mental state discussion than this gets. The narrative could help by having someone explain to Garion, or have Garion realize, now that he’s been through Cherek as well, just how weird his upbringing really was, with Sendaria’s general lack of tying people to their land, the shared prosperity and good wages available on Faldor’s farm, and Faldor’s clear disdain of gathering wealth and authority to himself to become a noble with serfs. And then the narrative could help make a moral judgment about whether Garion or Lelldorin is in the right about the systems in place. While we’ve seen plenty from Durnik about the social and moral values the narrative seems interested in promoting, there’s been significantly less about the economic and governmental values from most of the characters, other than Silk’s firm belief in mercantile capitalism above all things. Speaking of Silk, he has some advice for Garion about Lelldorin.

“How are you and your friend getting along?” Silk asked, falling in beside Garion.
“Fine, I suppose,” Garion replied, not quite sure how the rat-faced little man intended the question. “It seems to be a little hard to explain things to him, though.”
“That’s only natural,” Silk observed. “He’s an Arend, after all.”
Garion quickly came to Lelldorin’s defense. “He’s honest and very brave.”
“They all are. That’s part of the problem.”
“I like him,” Garion asserted.
“So do I, Garion, but that doesn’t keep me from realizing the truth about him.”
“If you’re trying to say something, why don’t you just go ahead and say it?”
“All right, I will. Don’t let friendship get the better of your good sense. Arendia’s a very dangerous place, and Arends tend to blunder into disasters quite regularly. Don’t let your exuberant young companion drag you into something that’s none of your business.” Silk’s look was direct, and Garion realized that the little man was quite serious.
“I’ll be careful,” he proclaimed.
“I knew I could count on you,” Silk said gravely.
“Are you making fun of me?”
“Would I do that, Garion?” Silk asked mockingly. Then he laughed and the rode on together through the gloomy afternoon.

I recognize there’s prophecy involved with all of this, and of course the one that actually had specifics is going to be the one that has to be right on all the particulars, but I’m with all the people who think it’s a bad idea to get involved in this kind of conflict. I’m still of the opinion that a war like this, for as long as it has gone on, is way more likely to have sparked several revolts along the way, both against the Mimbrates who have set up a government designed to make the Asturians permanently inferior, despite Brand’s pretty clear expectations that the two people would learn to get along, and against the Asturians, who appear to insist that they bankrupt their own coffers and kill their own people to try and get revenge against the Mimbrates. All the other kingdoms around them seem to go “Eh, they’re Arends, they do this all the time, because they’re not very bright at all,” about all of this, rather than “when they’re done with the latest cycle of trying to kill each other, we’ll pop in and subjugate them both into a client state.” Or if someone suggested it as a good way of fixing the problem permanently, there was a handy story about the time someone tried, and it turned out really poorly for the invaders, because the Arends may be less intelligent than the average rock, but if you give them something to fight together, they’re good enough to make the legions run away. Of course, if Garion suggested that perhaps they could do something about the condition of the serfs, I’m pretty sure everyone except Durnik would look at Garion uncomprehendingly and wonder what he was on about.

The plot continues with the party stopping for the night at one of Lelldorin’s relatives. Garion notes the house is not aesthetically pleasing, and Silk points out it’s built to be defensible, not pretty, because it’s a country where “neighborhood disputes sometimes get out of hand.” Silk advises Garion not to make sudden moves inside, because there will likely be archers looking for sudden moves, a “quaint custom of the region.” After Belgarath reintroduces himself to the relative, Reldegen, it lightens the mood significantly, and Belgarath gets to razz Reldegen about being a hothead in his youth and be surprised that he’s got actual books in his house. After introductions are done more completely, we get a sign of conflict in the house.

“You’re an idiot, Berentain!” the first, a dark-haired youth in a scarlet doublet, snapped.
“It may please thee to think so,” Torasin, the second, a stout young man with pale, curly hair and wearing a green and yellow striped tunic, replied, “but whether it please thee it not, Asturia’s future is in Mimbrate hands. Thy rancorous denouncements and sulfurous rhetoric shall not alter that fact.”
“Don’t thee or thou me, Berentain,” the dark-haired one sneered. “Your imitation Mimbrate courtesy turns my stomach.”
“Gentlemen, that’s enough!” Count Reldegen said sharply, rapping his cage on the stone floor. “If you two are going to insist on discussing politics, I’ll have you separated— forcibly, if necessary.”
The two young men scowled at each other and then stalked off to the opposite sides of the room. “My son, Torasin,” the count admitted apologetically, indicating the dark-haired youth, “and his cousin Berentain, the son of my late wife’s brother. They’ve been wrangling like this for two weeks now. I had to take their swords away from them the day after Berentain arrived.”
“Political discussion is good for the blood, my Lord,” Silk observed, “especially in the winter. The heat keeps the veins from clogging up.”
The count chuckled at the little man’s remark.

My eyes are going to roll so hard out of my head. Some of it because Silk continues to take serious things very lightly in his “I’m always in trouble” persona. Even if their Arend host is also doing the same. Mostly, though, because it’s a very common thing for people of this era to think that thee/thou/thine are extremely formal and stiff modes of addresses, and people who speak that way are noses-in-the-air kinds of people. They’re not. They are the casual address form that survived in other languages but disappeared from English because English-speaking societies applied huge penalties to people who were improperly casual with others, and so out of an abundance of caution, the casual form of address basically dropped from English. (If you know people who are part of the Society of Friends who use that form of address, the informality implied is deliberate. It’s also why certain people talk about having an I-Thou relationship with the deity, which is supposed to be more intimate and familiar, rather than a more formal I-You relationship.)

The next thing to happen is Polgara asking where the bath is.

Tell me, my Lord,” Aunt Pol said, “do you by chance have a bathtub in your house?”
“Bathing in winter is dangerous, Lady Polgara,” the count warned her.
“My Lord,” she stated gravely, “I’ve been bathing winter or summer for more years than you could possibly imagine.”
“Let her bathe, Reldegen,” Mister Wolf urged. “Her temper deteriorates quite quickly when she things she’s getting dirty.”
“A bath wouldn’t hurt you either, Old Wolf,” Aunt Pol retorted tartly. “You’re starting to get a bit strong from the downwind side.”
Mister Wolf looked a bit injured.

Wimmins, amirite? With their insistence on bathing and other people doing the same. Even though it’s dangerous to bathe in the winter, because you might catch something.

It’s also expensive to heat water to bathe, and to keep it properly hot for her to do so, since most pastiches of Latin Christendom assume the water is heated and then has to be hauled to the tub. So some amount of fuel has to be consumed for this, unless, of course, Polgara’s going to disturb some reality around her to make sure that the water is heated to her liking. And in this particular person’s house, unlike many other places, she isn’t going to be able to use Garion as her servant to heat and fetch the water. Even if she might make all of them take a bath to get the smell of the road and the horses off of them. So, after dinner, Pol goes off to get a bath and the men stay in their wine cups, and then Lelldorin and Garion get shown to their rooms by Torasin, who has much to say about Berentain’s mannerisms, which Torasin believes is Berentain trying to suck up so he can get some land and a title. So he can impress a girl and get a relationship with her, since she doesn’t want anything to do with someone who has neither land nor title. Lelldorin says it’s foolish, because there are already too many Mimbrate sycophants that the governor of the area would never give land to an Asturian.

And then Lelldorin once again proves that he should never be part of any plot, ever, by telling Torasin to go and kill Korodullin, the king, in his absence, since he’s going to be engaged with Belgarath and company. To compound the error, even after Torasin says they’re not exactly alone and Garion explicitly says he doesn’t want to know what’s happening, Lelldorin tells him the whole thing, because he trusts Garion with this information.

“Lelldorin, please,” Garion protested, “I’m not an Asturian—I’m not even an Arend. I don’t want to know what you’re planning.”
“But you will know, Garion, as proof of my trust in you,” Lelldorin declared. “Next summer, when Korodullin journeys to the ruined city of Vo Astur to hold court there for the six weeks that maintain the fiction of Arendish unity, we’re going to ambush him on the highway.”
“Lelldorin!” Torasin gasped, his face turning white.
But Lelldorin was already plunging on. “It won’t be just a simple ambush, Garion. We’re going to ambush him in the uniforms of Tolnedran legionnaires and cut him down with Tolnedran swords. Out attack will force Mimbre to declare war on the Tolnedran Empire, and Tolnedra will crush Mimbre like an eggshell. Mimbre will be destroyed, and Asturia will be free!”
“Nachak will have you killed for this, Lelldorin,” Torasin cried. “We’ve all been sworn to secrecy on a blood oath.”
“Tell the Murgo that I spit on his oath,” Lelldoring said hotly. “What need have Asturian patriots for a Murgo henchman?”

Naturally. Can’t have a good plot spring into existence without it turning out that there’s a Murgo behind it. I think we’re supposed to have suspected that there was outside interference because Arends aren’t bright enough to come up with this kind of false flag operation on their own.

Also, can I point out that this is a stupid plan? Because this plan doesn’t pass the six year-old test. (The question the six year-old asks is, “What if they don’t fall for it?”) Because there might be people who go “Nope. That’s the Tolnedran uniform from two centuries ago, and they haven’t carried a gladius that looks like that in just as long.” Or others who might say “Why would Tolnedra try to assassinate the king? They have enough legions and hostels in the area that they could just invade if they wanted to.” Or, perhaps even most likely, “these people tried to kill the king, and they succeeded, but oh, yeah, we got one of the conspirators and look, they’re Arends, not Tolnedrans. This is a false flag operation,” and then the Mimbrates have an excuse to merrily go along exterminating as many Asturians as they feel like, because you never know where the next plot will come from. This plot has the highest chance of success if nobody gets seen well enough to be recognized, nobody gets killed but the target, and nobody talks. Which Lelldorin has already done twice. It would be a far better plan for a single bowman (or only a few) to put that legendary longbow ability they have to good use and try to make a pincushion out of Kurodullin instead. You still get the dead king and you get the advantage of being really far away from the guards when they start looking for you.

Nachak has terrible taste in conspirators. I also wouldn’t be surprised if this is only one of several schemes Nachak is currently running, so that when Arends inevitably behave like Arends, he can just exit from unsuccessful plans. Or that his actual scheme is to spread more red gold around and buy himself some souls.

“He’s providing us with gold, you blockhead!” Torasin raged, almost beside himself. “We need his good red gold to buy the uniforms, the swords, and to strengthen the backbones of some of our weaker friends.”
“I don’t need weaklings with me,” Lelldorin said immensely. “A patriot does what he does for love of his country—not for Angarak gold.”
Garion’s mind was moving quickly now. His moment of stunned amazement had passed. “There was a man in Cherek,” he recalled. “The Earl of Jarvik. He also took Murgo gold and plotted to kill a king.”
Thw two stared at him blankly.
“Something happens to a country when you kill its king,” Garion explained. “No matter how bad the king is or how good the people are who kill him, the country falls apart for a while. Everything is confused, and there’s nobody to point the country in any one direction. Then, if you start a war between that country and another one at the same time, you add just that much more confusion. I think that if I were a Murgo, that’s exactly the kind of confusion I’d want to see in all the kingdoms of the West.”
Garion listened o his own voice almost in amazement. There was a dry, dispassionate quality in it that he instantly recognized. From the time of his earliest memories that voice had always been there—inside his mind—occupying some quiet, hidden corner, telling him when he was wrong or foolish. But that voice had never actively interfered before in his dealings with other people. Now, however, it spoke directly to these two young men, patiently explaining.
“Angarak gold isn’t what it seems to be,” he went on. “There’s a kind of power in it that corrupts you. Maybe that’s why it’s the color of blood. I’d think about that before I accepted any more red gold from this Murgo Nachak. Why do you suppose he’s giving you gold and helping you with this ploy of yours? He’s not an Asturian, so patriotism couldn’t have anything to do with it, could it? I’d think about that, too.”
Lelldorin and his cousin looked suddenly troubled.
“I’m not going to say anything about this to anybody,” Garion said. “You told me about it in confidence, and I really wasn’t supposed to hear about it anyway. But remember that there’s a lot more going on in the world right now than what’s happening here in Arendia. Now I think I’d like to get some sleep. If you’ll show me where my bed is, I’ll leave you to talk things over all night, if you’d like.” All in all, Garion though he’d handled the whole thing rather well. He’d planted a few doubts at the very least. He knew Arends well enough by now to realize that it probably wouldn’t be enough to turn these two around, but it was a start.

And that ends chapter 3, with Garion completely discarding his “I like Lelldorin” attitude in favor of “these two Arends are pretty stupid, but at least I got them started on a path away from their plan.” That’s probably the dry voice talking, if anything, but also, it appears that the dry voice has taken a much more active role with Garion, no longer content to simply snark from the sidelines. I suppose this is one of those “and if someone is joining the series in this book, we need to get them up to speed on the idea that red gold is soul-corrupting,” and a probably literal deus ex Garion was apparently the easiest way to achieve this.

It still makes me wonder why Angaraks aren’t shot on sight, though. Since now there’s been enough said that a Murgo is now a co-conspirator in a plot to assassinate the Mimbrate king, I feel like that should be enough for any civil authority concerned with national security (or their own security) to haul in Nachak, question him, and then when they’re done getting information out of him, kill Nachak, ban Murgos of all sorts, possibly make an example out of Lelldorin and his group by making them gong farmers for the rest of their lives, and then systematically engage in a genocidal revenge campaign against the Angarak kingdoms because that’s what Arends do. (Regardless of whether it’s a smart idea or not.) It might be the opposite of the quiet that Belgarath wants so he can get the Orb back fom Zedar, but given how good Lelldorin is about subtlety, if that’s an Arendish trait, Belgarath might just have to accelerate his plans if he knows there will be Arends going to war soon regardless of what he actually wants. It could give some real stakes to this otherwise still fairly slow-paced adventure going on here.

Also, because this is the first time that the king of Arendia’s name has been mentioned, the author really has a thing for all the successors and descendants of a particular king or queen or steward to take the same name as their ancestor. All the Rivan warders are named Brand. I’ll bet all the kings of Arendia have been named Korodullin and all the queens Mayaserana, regardless of what their names were before, and whether or not the king is a Mimbrate and the queen is an Asturian or not, because the symbolism of a united kingdom is important to the ruling faction, whichever faction that might be. It’s already been stated that all the queens of Nyissa are named Salmissra. We’re haven’t heard a lot about the Emperor of Tolnedra, but I expect them to follow suit with having similar names as well. Which, yeah, there are several dynastic lines in hereditary nobility that have taken the same name over time, and once elected to the post, the Bishop of Rome takes a name that is one of the saints of the Catholic Church, some of which have been much more popular than others, but they tend not to do it in succession. If these have been the thing for thousands of years, then we’ve got be on Korodullin XXXVII, or something, which can’t make it easy for someone to remember their history particularly well. (That said, the only time Silk claimed to be having trouble was when he was needling someone about the ignominious beginnings of the kings of Sendaria, so maybe it’s very easy to distinguish between Ran Borune IV and Ran Borune XIV.) It’s an economical plot device to not have to come up with all that many names, and there might even be Watsonian justifications for all of it, but it still comes across as a bit suspicious that it’s so widespread across the entire world.

More of the unexciting trek across Arendia, and everyone basically telegraphing to Garion that it’s as bad idea to get involved in the internal politics of Arends, even as the Arends themselves refuse to take no for an answer, next week.

8 thoughts on “Queen of Sorcery: Actual Plot?

  1. Firedrake September 30, 2021 at 4:58 am

    Another potential failure mode of the Cunning Plan: Mimbre declares war on the Tolnedran Empire, and the Empire steamrollers all of Arendia into its newest province, Mimbrate and Asturian alike. (“They all look the same to me.”)

    But of course all these failure modes are consonant with the Murgo Master Plan of “buy souls, sow chaos”. A successful attempt, a failed attempt, a leak by Lelldorin that brings down the Mimbrate Secret Police on a plotting meeting so that there’s an excuse for a purge – all of these things produce acceptable outcomes.

    In fact Nachak’s only failure is being directly involved himself. If I were in his position I’d be using cutouts, so that when the Asturians get busted wide open all they can say under interrogation is “and we got this red gold from a mysterious foreign backer” rather than “this dude called Nachak is helping us”.

    But, well, tradecraft is not a well-developed art in this world, in spite of what Silk thinks.

    I suspect there are rhymes to help historians remember which king is which.

  2. genesistrine September 30, 2021 at 5:29 am

    so no insta-killing with magic

    Well, no, you can instakill anyone you like as long as you do it by exploding their heart, shutting off their windpipe, turning their bones into talcum powder or their brain into cauliflower etc etc. You just can’t make them unexist.

    Sorry to keep going on about this, but it’s really not the solution to the “why don’t sorcerors just magic all their enemies away” problem that it seems to be being spun as. If Pol can cure cataracts with a wave of her hand why can’t she just wave cataracts onto attacking enemies’ eyes? How much magical energy does a force choke take?

    “Servants?” One of Aunt Pol’s eyebrows shot up.

    “Just for the sake of the disguise,” Silk assured her quickly

    Pol, you just spent x-teen years as a farm cook. Get over yourself. Why shouldn’t Radek bring his favourite cook along from Boktor? You could have a wonderful time terrorizing inn staff along the route.

    if Garion suggested that perhaps they could do something about the condition of the serfs, I’m pretty sure everyone except Durnik would look at Garion uncomprehendingly

    Oh, I’m pretty sure Durnik would have a good reason for it being Somebody Else’s Problem too. Rousing the populace to set shit on fire and fight to the death is something you do to Angaraks, not nice godly Western people.

    The next thing to happen is Polgara asking where the bath is

    Note that that’s only two lines after “My father’s terribly predictable, once you get to know him.”, so… is that a meta joke?

    The question the six year-old asks is, “What if they don’t fall for it?”

    And, possibly, “why wouldn’t the Tolnedrans go on and conquer Asturia afterwards?”

    Nachak has terrible taste in conspirators

    Oh I dunno, he wins either way. Either the stars align and some God or other smiles down and the stupid plan miraculously works, or the stupid plan fouls up and the Mimbrates have to stamp out the Free Asturia nitwits by force. Either way it’s war, destabilization and Westerners killing each other rather than Angaraks.

    All in all, Garion though he’d handled the whole thing rather well.

    He didn’t handle it at all. The ~voice~ possessed him and handled it. Presumably because the writer didn’t want to write the conversation between 3 teens arguing politics so wrote Author Voice telling the conspirators what was up instead.

    Which is a pity; I’d like to read the conversation where Garion gets to be the 6-year-old, point out the obvious problems and brings Jarvik into the conversation because he noticed the parallel himself.

    All the Rivan warders are named Brand

    Imagine the Brand family at dinner. “Hey, Brand, pass the salt – no, not you, Brand, you, Brand.” “Brand, did you speak to Brand about the city works Brand was supervising before Brand sent him out to check the storehouses?” “Dammit I didn’t mean to send him, I wanted to send Brand” “Brandi, stop kicking your brother.”

    maybe it’s very easy to distinguish between Ran Borune IV and Ran Borune XIV

    The traditional way is to give them nicknames. Ran Borune the Roadmender. Ran Borune the Defenestrator. Ran Borune the Spotty.

    Bet nothing that fun ever happens here. Even the Chereks don’t have rude Viking nicknames for each other.

  3. Silver Adept September 30, 2021 at 2:58 pm

    You’re right, @ genesistrine. I didn’t read over my draft well enough, clearly, to account for the creativity of killing people. I think the narrative still wants us to believe it’s a bigger prohibition than it will turn out to be. Post is edited.

    Tradecraft failures like this one and the Murgo Master Plan being what it is still makes at wonder why any Angarak is allowed to draw breath inside any of the Western kingdoms. One exposed plan of this sort and there’s an excuse for a Crusade and making very sure that nobody who even looks like an Angarak is alive on this side of the border. The narrative doesn’t do nearly a good enough job to convince us that everyone else thinks the Murgo Conspiracy is just that, and it doesn’t do as Firedrake suggests and work only in fake names and shadowy figures who evaporate once you try to find them. The Red Gold conspiracy would be much harder to fight if there were never any Murgos or Grolims in any of the countries. (And it would be much easier to fight if the red gold has a magical signature that can be easily detected for its corrupting effects.)

    I think Durnik would find a way for it to be someone else’s problem, but maybe he and Silk would be the two people other than Garion who would understand that serfdom is a problem and something might need to be done about it.

    Polgara and the bath might be a meta joke, but I’m not giving the author the satisfaction of believing it was intentionally placed there as such yet. There hadn’t been enough clever like this beforehand to make me believe it’s there on purpose.

    I bet one of the prerequisites of being the Rivan Warder is that you never have kids, lest you violate the One Brand Rule.

    I would also like to see Garion being clever and working this all out himself. There’s narrative precedent that he’s pretty smart and flexible about adapting to a new situation, so it wouldn’t need a god-voice to explain it all to everyone.

    The closest we get to nicknames in Cherek was Anheg the Sly. I also note a curious lack of surnames here as well. It’s not Pol Garathsdottir or Barak Redbeard or Durnik Smith and Faldor Farmer (because Sendars absolutely would do that) or that Asharak’s full name means “one who revels in the beauty of Torak”. There only people who have surnames are Silk’s personas. As we’ve been saying, it’s cosplay rather than worldbuilding. (I feel like an average SCAdian could build a better world than this one.)

  4. genesistrine October 1, 2021 at 7:44 am

    @Firedrake: great minds…

    @Silver Adept: I think the narrative still wants us to believe it’s a bigger prohibition than it will turn out to be

    I’m 100% certain that the narrative wants us to believe it’s the solution to the problem of “why don’t the magic users deal with enemies by magic so we don’t have to fight them”, but as soon as you put some thought into that it comes across as purely a plot convenience that ignores how creatively nasty humans can be to each other. Eddings’ sorcerers are a remarkably uninventive lot.

    wonder why any Angarak is allowed to draw breath inside any of the Western kingdoms

    Yeah. The Kings (and other rulers) of Aloria know all about mind-controlling red gold and Angarak-backed attempts to overturn them already. What’s stopping them closing the borders and putting a bounty on every Angarak who isn’t gone in a month? They’re absolute rulers! What are the Angaraks going to do, lodge a complaint with the UN? Invade early before their God wakes up and while the Orb’s still floating about who-knows-where? If you’re going to commit to fantasy racism then commit to it (well, preferably don’t do it at all, but too late for that here) and kick out all the Angarak-looking Angaraks.

    (And then with any luck find out that the racially distinct evil-god-cult has been recruiting Alorns and Alorn-lookalikes for generations in some kind of janissary arrangement. Do we ever meet Brill again? I can’t remember. They should have made him ethnically Alorn and religiously Angarak.)

    The closest we get to nicknames in Cherek was Anheg the Sly

    Should’ve been Anheg the Bookworm!

    I’ve been reading Phyllis Ann Karr’s Idylls of the Queen, which is basically a pro-fanfic of Malory’s Arthurian stuff, and that has some fabulous knights’ nicknames in. Sir Bellangere le Orgulous FTW! (I highly recommend it BTW; it mostly focuses on Sirs Kay and Mordred being sarcastic and moody at each other and the author very clearly both loves the milieu and realises how psychotically awful it and “chivalrous” knights in general could be.)

    (I feel like an average SCAdian could build a better world than this one.)

    Hell, I reckon even a below-average SCAdian could.

  5. Silver Adept October 1, 2021 at 12:08 pm

    One of those things that might have been useful to add, had it been thought of, would have been a “and the powers that be stab anyone who asks tricksy questions” rider on it, to explain that it’s not just “be not” that rebounds, but some of those tricks that are things like “turning someone to stone doesn’t work, because it unmakes them and remakes them into something else.” Or “making someone have a hole in their heart that lets their blood leak out doesn’t work, because that’s unmaking something and the powers that be don’t like unmaking anything.” It would cut down on the creative ways someone could still die, but there would still be ways of making it work.

    I think the conspiracies and their problems would be a much more sinister thing if it were being executed by people who looked like them, rather than having some foreigner deeply involved and present in it, because it makes it very easy to displace the blame for everything onto the foreigner without examining why they had conspirators. The red gold’s soul-sucking abilities make it even easier to make everything the fault of the foreigner, because now it’s not only the fault of the Other, you can argue that the co-conspirators were brainwashed into doing it, so it’s only the fault of the Other than things happened. So, yes, it would be even better for the conspiracy to composed of to be ethnically Like Us and religiously Like Them.

    “Anheg the Bookworm” would only work if everyone knew about it, and I think we were supposed to believe that Anheg’s book-reading was still somewhat secret and not well-known.

    I think I would enjoy Idylls of the Queen, so thank you for the recommendation.

  6. genesistrine October 4, 2021 at 2:52 pm

    I’m not sure a “no rules lawyering/clever circumventions” thing would help; it just makes the magic even more… mechanical. Magic’s always difficult to balance as part of a plot; what can it do, what can’t it do, why can’t we solve this problem with it. Though in this plot there are actual literal gods, so why not just have magic controlled by them according to their rules/wishes/arbitrary nature?

    Yeah, The Other as Enemy is immensely tedious already and I can’t see it getting any better…

    I really enjoyed Idylls of the Queen, hope you do too! I read Karr’s Frostflower duo decades ago, which didn’t do much for me, but now I’m going to have to catch up with her backlist.

  7. Firedrake October 5, 2021 at 1:42 am

    Practically anything magical can be used for murder if you have a bit of imagination. “Don’t notice me hiding by the road” can become “don’t notice that very high cliff”. Creation? I’ll create a great big rock over your head, or thousands of gallons of chlorine. Healing? I’ll heal your mouth and nostrils shut.

    I mean, yes, that particular prohibition does pay off later, but I really don’t see it as a major restriction.

  8. Silver Adept October 6, 2021 at 11:10 am

    I think I was going for something more like what you were saying about “the gods’ arbitrary whims” there. If it were “well, you can try it, but if the god you’re trying to invoke on this doesn’t like it, you’re going to be the one hurting,” that would cut down on the creative applications working more than once, if at all. Or it would be something like “Torak’s the only one who approves of those things, so if you do it, there’s a chance you’ll end up changing your alignment.” But yes, you’re both right that this could be handled better as a way of explaining why things don’t just get magicked away.

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